Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….…you could tell by her eyes that she was losing interest and Iain was looking warningly at his mother but she didn’t pay too much attention to that for after all didn’t he have to be saved from himself. How could this girl, so pale and fashionable, milk the cows, cut the corn with a sickle, plant potatoes, carry the peats home and do all the other jobs a woman had to do?
….Unless, of course, Iain went to Glasgow.
….Hadn’t she done everything for him, even when her mother had been screaming inside her that she must be strict with him? And now this girl, hatched heaven knows where but quite suited to Glasgow with its lights like the fires of hell, had come to her home and was only half listening to what she had to say. And looking so confident though she was only seventeen, and casting around very likely to see if there were any mirrors in the room and comparing this house to the great houses in which she was used to staying. I do not like her, she was saying to herself, as she took back the scone which had been barely pecked at (but perhaps in Glasgow they had finer food than that and something called coffy which you could buy in a dish).

~ Consider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith

* * * * *

….I forward the file to her, and she opens it on a computer display, clicking on PLAY. All we see is darkness, the muddy image of the road leading to Colonial Landing’s walled brick entrance.
….At 5:13 P.M., something is pulled over one camera, then the other, making a quiet crinkly plastic sound exactly as August described. Two minutes later, Gwen Hainey’s code, 1988, is entered, and the entrance gate slides open. There’s no car engine, no sound of anything driving through.
….Just the wind and rain, then the faint strains of organ music getting louder, crescendoing like The Phantom of the Opera. But what we’re listening to isn’t Andrew Lloyd Webber.
….“Next you hear the entrance gate close, and then nothing,” I say to Lucy. “Apparently, all was quiet until fifty-two minutes later.”
….I fast-forward the recording almost to the end. We listen to the noise of the metal exit gate opening. Then the same eerie musical theme is playing again, and it’s enough to make one’s hair stand on end.

~ Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell

* * * * *

….To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small fox-terrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and-nobler expression about Montmorency that has been known to bring the tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen.
….When first he came to live at my expense, I never thought I should be able to get him to stop long. I used to sit down and look at him, as he sat on the rug and looked up at me, and think: “Oh, that dog will never live. He will be snatched up to the bright skies in a chariot, that is what will happen to him.”
….But, when I had paid for about a dozen chickens that he had killed; and had dragged him, growling and kicking, by the scruff of his neck, out of a hundred and fourteen street fights; and had had a dead cat brought round for my inspection by an irate female, who called me a murderer; and had been summoned by the man next door but one for having a ferocious dog at large, that had kept him pinned up in his own tool-shed, afraid to venture his nose outside the door for over two hours on a cold night; and had learned that the gardener, unknown to myself, had won thirty shillings by backing him to kill rats against time, then I began to think that maybe they’d let him remain on earth for a bit longer, after all.

~ Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

* * * * *

Nor were they entirely safe in the city: in early April 1986, after two performances of a piece titled The Idiot President, Diciembre’s lead actor and playwright was arrested for incitement, and left to languish for the better part of a year at a prison known as Collectors. His name was Henry Nuñez, and his freedom was, for a brief time, a cause célèbre. Letters were written on his behalf in a handful of foreign countries, by mostly well-meaning people who’d never heard of him before and who had no opinion about his work. Somewhere in the archives of one or another of the national radio stations lurks the audio of a jailhouse interview: this serious young man, liberally seasoning his statements with citations of Camus and Ionesco, describing a prison production of The Idiot President, with inmates in the starring roles. “Criminals and delinquents have an intuitive understanding of a play about national politics,” Henry said in a firm, uncowed voice.

~ At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….The commissioner added, “These guys talk about a Day of Retribution, when those who’ve made their lives miserable will get what’s coming to them. We’ve been seeing increasing references to it.”
….“It’s a delicate balancing act,” Joesbury said. “They want to get their communities excited, wound up about what’s coming, without giving too much away.”
….Brabin said, “Why babies? Why was the first attack on babies? How does that fit with their woman-hating agenda?”
….“We think it’s about attention?” Joesbury said. “Terrorists want to shock, to have everyone talking about them. An attack going unnoticed would be the worst kind of failure. Well, what would cause more outrage than an attack on a baby?”
….“Killing a puppy?” Brabin suggested.
….Joesbury let his lips relax into a half smile. “I stand corrected.”

~ The Dark by Sharon Bolton

* * * * *

….While Mannering was gazing round the ruins, he heard from the interior of an apartment on the left hand the voice of the gipsey he had seen on the preceding evening. He soon found an aperture through which he could observe her without being himself visible; and could not help feeling that her figure, her employment, and her situation conveyed the exact impression of an ancient sibyl.
….She sate upon a broken corner-stone in the angle of a paved apartment, part of which she had swept clean to afford a smooth space for the evolutions of her spindle. A strong sunbeam through a lofty and narrow window fell upon her wild dress and features, and afforded her light for her occupation; the rest of the apartment was very gloomy. Equipt in a habit which mingled the national dress of the Scottish common people with something of an Eastern costume, she spun a thread drawn from wool of three different colours, black, white, and grey, by assistance of those ancient implements of housewifery now almost banished from the land, the distaff and spindle. As she spun, she sung what seemed to be a charm.

~ Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott

* * * * *

….A week before he was due to leave, Katherine held a small goodbye tea party for her husband. He had few friends and most of them were also tuners: Mr Wiggers, who specialised in Broadwoods, Mr d’Argences, the Frenchman whose passion was Viennese uprights, and Mr Poffy, who wasn’t actually a piano tuner since he repaired organs mostly – It is nice, Edgar once explained to Katherine, to have variety in one’s friends. Of course, this hardly spanned the full array of Those Associated with Pianos. The London Directory alone, between Physicians and Pickle and Sauce Manufacturers, listed Pianoforte makers, Pianoforte action-makers, Pianoforte fret-cutters, hammer coverers, hammer- and damper-felt manufacturers, hammer rail-makers, ivory bleachers, ivory cutters, key makers, pin makers, silkers, small-work Manufacturers, Pianoforte string makers, Pianoforte tuners. Notably absent from the party was Mr Hastings, who also specialized in Erards, and who had snubbed Edgar ever since he had put up a sign in his workshop reading ‘Gone to Burma to tune in the service of Her Majesty; please consult Mr George Hastings for minor tunings that cannot await my return’.

~ The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

* * * * *

….He began to hiccup with nerves at the thought of facing for the seven hundred and thirty-eighth time his harsh house-keeper – his wife. There she would be, lying in the big shameless bed that filled up half the room, a bony shadow within the mosquito tent, a lanky jaw and a short grey pigtail and an absurd bonnet. She thought she had a position to keep up: a government pensioner; the wife of the only married priest. She was proud of it. “José.”
….“I’m.. hic…coming, my love,” he said, and lifted himself from the crate. Somebody somewhere laughed.
….He lifted little pink eyes like those of a pig conscious of the slaughter-room. A high child’s voice said: “José.” He stared in a bewildered way around the patio. At a barred window opposite, three children watched him with deep gravity. He turned his back and took a step or two towards his door, moving very slowly because of his bulk. “José,” somebody squeaked again, “José.” He looked back over his shoulder and caught the faces out in expressions of wild glee; his little pink eyes showed no anger – he had no right to be angry; he moved his mouth into a ragged, baffled, disintegrated smile, and as if that sign of weakness gave them all the licence they needed, they squealed back at him without disguise, “José, José. Come to bed, José.” Their little shameless voices filled the patio, and he smiled humbly and sketched small gestures for silence, and there was no respect anywhere left for him in his home, in the town, in the whole abandoned star.

~ The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

* * * * *…

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….Kitty was lively; she was willing to chatter all day long and she laughed easily. His silence disconcerted her. He had a way which exasperated her of returning no answer to some casual remark of hers. It was true that it needed no answer, but an answer all the same would have been pleasant. If it was raining and she said: “It’s raining cats and dogs,” she would have liked him to say: “Yes, isn’t it?” He remained silent. Sometimes she would have liked to shake him.
….“I said it was raining cats and dogs,” she repeated.
….“I heard you,” he answered, with his affectionate smile.
….It showed that he had not meant to be offensive. He did not speak because he had nothing to say. But if nobody spoke unless he had something to say, Kitty reflected, with a smile, the human race would very soon lose the use of speech.

~ The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

* * * * *

….Wednesday of the third week following the Inquest was appointed for the magisterial inquiry, and during the interval Sergeant Ridgway was busily occupied, presumably in accumulating and piecing together various evidence. Of what it consisted no one but himself knew, nor did it appear whether or not its trend on the whole was favourable or disastrous to the unhappy prisoner, at the expense possibly of Cleghorn, or possibly to the complete exculpation of that injured man. The detective kept his own counsel, after the manner of his kind; and if any had thought to extract from the cover of that sealed book a hint of its contents, no reassuring message at least could have been gathered from its unlettered sombreness. But nobody asked, fearful of being thought to profane the majestic muteness of the oracle; and the labouring atmosphere lowered unenlightened as the days went on.

~ The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes

* * * * *

….In the sumptuously decorated Privy chamber, four richly dressed maids-in-waiting with the Queen’s badge on their hoods sat sewing by the window. Outside were the palace gardens, patterned flowerbeds and fishponds and statues of heraldic beasts. All the women rose and nodded briefly as I bowed to them.
….Queen Catherine Parr sat in the centre of the room, on a red velvet chair under a crimson cloth of state. Beside her a girl of about eleven knelt stroking a spaniel. She had a pale face and long auburn hair, and wore a green silken dress and a rope of pearls. I realised this was the Lady Elizabeth, the King’s younger daughter, by Anne Boleyn. I knew the King had restored Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter, to the succession the year before, it was said at the Queen’s urging. But their status as bastards remained; they were still ladies, not princesses. And though Mary, now in her twenties, was a major figure at court and second in line to the throne after young Prince Edward, Elizabeth, despised and rejected by her father, was hardly ever seen in public.

~ Heartstone by CJ Sansom

* * * * *

. . . we have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven – the living only from whom men’s indulgence and reverence are held off, like the rain by the hard east wind. While the heart beats, bruise it – it is your only opportunity; while the eye can still turn towards you with moist timid entreaty, freeze it with an icy unanswering gaze; while the ear, that delicate messenger to the inmost sanctuary of the soul, can still take in the tones of kindness, put it off with hard civility, or sneering compliment, or envious affectation of indifference; while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition – make haste – oppress it with your ill-considered judgments, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations. The heart will by-and-by be still – ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit; the eye will cease to entreat; the ear will be deaf; the brain will have ceased from all wants as well as from all work. Then your charitable speeches may find vent; then you may remember and pity the toil and struggle and the failure; then you may give due honour to the work achieved; then you may find extenuation for errors, and may consent to bury them.

From The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

~ The Origins of Science Fiction edited by Michael Newton

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable diminishing replicas of themselves inside. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections. The minutes and hours glided by as in a dream. When the cathedral bells tolled midnight, I barely heard them. Under the warm light cast by the reading lamp, I was plunged into a new world of images and sensations peopled by characters who seemed as real to me as my surroundings. Page after page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page. I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city. My eyes began to close, but I resisted. I did not want to lose the story’s spell or bid farewell to its characters just yet.

~ The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

* * * * *

….“Do you feel like playing mouse in a little game of cat-and-mouse?”
….Bertie polished his eyeglass industriously. “Absolutely, old top,” he agreed. “I’ll play any part you like, you bet I will, if it means hitting von what’s-his-name a wallop.”
….“That’s fine,” returned Biggles. “This is what you have to do. Go to Karga. Tell Angus what’s in the wind. Get all hands working on the Whitley, making it look as much like a civil machine as possible. Then, at dawn, take off and fly it through. You’ll have to work fast. Come over here at about ten thousand, and then head for the danger zone.”
….“Here, I say, what about some guns?” protested Bertie.
….“You can stick as many guns in as you like, as far as I’m concerned,” granted Biggles. “Angus will provide you with some gunners. But don’t go fooling about. You’re not supposed to fight. Leave that to us. We shall be upstairs, waiting for the Messerschmitts. Angus can send out a radio signal that you’re on your way. If von Zoyton picks it up he’ll soon be after you. Is that clear?”
….“Absolutely, yes, absolutely,” murmured Bertie. “What fun! Here I go. See you in the morning. Cheerio, and so forth.”

~ Biggles Defends the Desert by Capt. W.E. Johns

* * * * *

….Hannah crossed the room and sat on the bed, then sank back, pulled a pillow towards her and pressed it to her face. What was she doing? Was this crazy?
….Ever since she had stumbled across the Vanity Fair article two weeks ago and found out exactly what was happening at the University of Virginia, she’d been too caught up in the frantic forward momentum of her plan to have time to think. Except, no… that was bullshit. She’d had plenty of time to think, she just hadn’t allowed herself to. And now she was in Charlottesville, at the point of no return. It wasn’t too late. She could still leave, take her bags, head back to Maine. Except… she’d be going back to what? More of the same? No chance for change, for things to really, truly, get better?
….No. No way. She was here for a reason and no way was she going to chicken out before she’d even got started.

~ The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

* * * * *

….“A child?” said Edwin Digweed. “We are going to have a child?
….“Not as such,” said Edgar Wield.
….“Not as such. As what then? As an entrée at supper fricasseed à la Swift? As a parthenogenetic earnest of Jehovah’s good intentions? As an early entry to some new Dotheboys Hall you are planning to found here in Enscombe to finance your dotage? Or is this infant in fact a Mafia dwarf turned Queen’s evidence for whom you are caring under the witness protection programme?”
….Wield, accustomed to his partner’s blasts of invective fancy, bowed his head meekly before the storm. When it abated, he said, “Pete Pascoe’s lass, Rosie. I promised I’d show her the menagerie.”
….“With a view to joining it perhaps?
….“Eh?”
….“Edgar, since we set up house together, I have put the interests of domestic harmony above my professional calling and pandered to your bibliophobia by making this cottage to all intents and purposes a book-free zone. And what have you brought into our life by way of return? I shall tell you what. First, an aerobatic ape; then, a possibly rabid dog; and now, a female child. What more need I say? I am speechless. I rest my case.”

~ Arms and the Women by Reginald Hill

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….It was 28th April. Wet, naturally, the grass percolating water as John Rebus walked to the grave of his father, dead five years to the day. He placed a wreath so that it lay, yellow and red, the colours of remembrance, against the still shining marble. He paused for a moment, trying to think of things to say, but there seemed nothing to say, nothing to think. He had been a good enough father and that was that. The old man wouldn’t have wanted him to waste his words in any case. So he stood there, hands respectfully behind his back, crows laughing on the walls around him, until the water seeping into his shoes told him that there was a warm car waiting for him at the cemetery gates.
….He drove quietly, hating to be back here in Fife, back where the old days had never been ‘the good old days,’ where ghosts rustled in the shells of empty houses and the shutters went up every evening on a handful of desultory shops, those metal shutters that gave the vandals somewhere to write their names. How Rebus hated it all, this singular lack of an environment. It stank the way it had always done: of misuse, of disuse, of the sheer wastage of life.

~ Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

* * * * *

….The second photograph is from the wedding itself. In it, the newly-weds pose in front of a glossy, cream trailer, holding hands, but standing apart. A dog is a moving blur behind them. Chrome trim winks in the sunlight, and both have their eyes slightly narrowed against the glare. Rose has had her hair done – permed, lightened and arranged into blonde flicks that frame her face. The high neck of her wedding dress hides the birthmark. She smiles nervously. Her new husband, Ivo Janko, wears a black suit; he is blade-thin with longish, slicked-back dark hair, high cheekbones and large, dark eyes. He’s very good looking, and looks as though he knows it. He does not smile – his expression appears arrogant, even hostile. He seems to be leaning away from her, his body tense, his chin lifted. Studying his face in the photograph – looking for clues – I decide that his expression is due less to arrogance than nervousness. They are both very young, after all, and are marrying a person they hardly know. Who would look at ease?

~ The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

* * * * *

….Crusade and pilgrimage strengthened linkages between northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. And around the time that the crusades began, trumpets resembling the one found at Billingsgate began to appear in European art. Arabic influence is shown in the decorative knobs along its length, grafted onto a straight-stemmed form of Byzantine origin. Although we cannot be certain, it seems highly probable that returning crusader fleets carried the archetype into Europe, whence it was honed and replicated by the brassworkers of Nuremberg and Paris.
….No home-grown instrument, then, the ships trumpet, but one that originated in the Holy Land. It embodies a peculiar crossover between the prosaic business of ship-signalling and the potent symbolism of the crusade. And as the only surviving example of its kind, the Billingsgate Trumpet powerfully commemorates the furthest from England a mediaeval ship would go, limited by seaworthiness, circumscribed by piety.

The Billingsgate Trumpet
Found during excavations in 1984, and kept in the Museum of London

~ The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

* * * * *

….“I want to take you to Pakistan.”
….Suzie looked up. “Khalid, do you? You’ve never said that before.”
….Even as he said it, he knew it was a terrible idea.
….It just wouldn’t work. His cousins would be charming, wrapping Suzie up in clothes and jewellery and taking care of her, and whispering in his ear about her prettiness, spoiling Alia with everything she asked for. But there was something that he’d find too difficult, pulling him in two directions. It wasn’t their fault. Just the artifice, pretending again that he belonged there, when things had moved on so much. This was his life now. He had created something that couldn’t be exported.
….His mother called every week from Karachi to ask him about the family, and sometimes he put Alia on the phone. It was all kind of excruciating because of the language. The incantation of the same words, Mashallah, Khuda Hafiz, and his little girl’s blank expressions when she heard Urdu, which made him guilty for not teaching her more, and not knowing quite who this grandmother was or where the voice came from. The worst was when Alia held the phone away from her ear with a scrunched-up nose and refused to speak at all.

~ Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….There was a line-up at the luggage counter, and they took their places at the end of it. To Mrs. Hamilton, who was quick to sense atmosphere, the big room had an air of excitement gone stale, anticipation soured by reality.
….Journey’s end, she thought. She felt stale and sour herself, and the feeling reminded her of Virginia; Virginia at Christmas time, the year she was eight. For weeks and weeks the child had dreamed of Christmas, and then on Christmas morning she had awakened and found that Christmas was only another day. There were presents, of course, but they weren’t, they never could be, as big and exciting and mysterious as the packages they came in. In the afternoon Virginia had wept, rocking herself back and forth in misery.
….“I want my Christmas back again. I want my Christmas!” Mrs Hamilton knew now that what Virginia had wanted back were the wild and wonderful hopes, the boxes unopened, the ribbons still in bows.

~ Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

* * * * *

From Churchill’s tribute in the House to Neville Chamberlain, on his death…

….At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with the shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….Emily Gaunt was coming down the stairs to her bedroom, fresh from her bath. Emily Gaunt was a pleasant person, well-proportioned, and, for a housemaid, unusually fair to see. Her eyes, like her hair, were a very dark brown, and there was a certain refinement in her features. Her hair was hanging about her shoulders and her face – usually pale – was rosy from her bath. In the absence of a dressing-gown or kimono, she wore an old coat of Cook’s over her night-gown. Cook was skinny and Emily was plump, so that Cook’s coat was far from meeting where it ought to have met. There was a great deal of Emily’s neck and Emily’s night-gown to be seen.
….Stephen, so far, had taken little notice of Emily, except that one evening he had smiled at her for some reason and she had smiled at him; but at this moment, in the special circumstances of this lovely evening, she seemed in his eyes surprisingly desirable. In the half-light from the dining-room it was easy to forget that she was a servant. She was merely a warm young female creature, plump and comely, and scantily clad.
….And there was no one else in the house.

~ The House by the River by A.P. Herbert

* * * * *

….She turned back into the room, and going to her writing-table laid Mrs. Fairford’s note before her, and began to study it minutely. She had read in the “Boudoir Chat” of one of the Sunday papers that the smartest women were using the new pigeon-blood notepaper with white ink; and rather against her mother’s advice she had ordered a large supply, with her monogram in silver. It was a disappointment, therefore, to find that Mrs. Fairford wrote on the old-fashioned white sheet, without even a monogram—simply her address and telephone number. It gave Undine rather a poor opinion of Mrs. Fairford’s social standing, and for a moment she thought with considerable satisfaction of answering the note on her pigeon-blood paper. Then she remembered Mrs. Heeny’s emphatic commendation of Mrs. Fairford, and her pen wavered. What if white paper were really newer than pigeon blood? It might be more stylish, anyhow. Well, she didn’t care if Mrs. Fairford didn’t like red paper—SHE did! And she wasn’t going to truckle to any woman who lived in a small house down beyond Park Avenue…

~ The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

* * * * *

….The sea was no longer oil-smooth. Little waves were forming on the tops of the swell, making patterns of white as they broke. I knew I hadn’t much time. I cupped my hands round my mouth and shouted: “Mary Deare! Ahoy! Is there anybody on board?” A gull shifted his stance uneasily on one of the ventilators, watching me with a beady eye. There was no answer, no sound except the door to the after deck-house slatting back and forth, regular as a metronome, and the bump of the lifeboat against the port side. It was obvious that she was deserted. All the evidence of abandonment was there on the deck – the empty falls, the stray pieces of clothing, a loaf lying in the scuppers, a hunk of cheese trampled into the deck, a half-open suitcase spilling nylons and cigarettes, a pair of sea boots; they had left her in a hurry and at night.
….But why?
….A sense of unease held me for a moment – a deserted ship with all its secrets, all its death-in-life stillness – I felt like an intruder and glanced quickly back towards Sea Witch. She was no bigger than a toy now in the leaden immensity of sea and sky, and the wind was beginning to moan through the empty ship – hurry! hurry!

~ The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….As they turned into Grave Street they automatically walked in the centre of the roadway. There are some places where it is not healthy to walk at night on shadowed pavements. They moved without haste and without loitering, as men who know exactly what they have to do. From one of the darkened houses a woman’s shrill scream issued full of rage and terror. It was followed by a man’s loud, angry tones, the thud of blows, shrieks, curses, and brutal laughter. Then the silence dropped over everything again. The two [police]men had apparently paid no heed. Even had they been inclined to play the part of knights-errant in what was not an uncommon episode in Grave Street, they knew that the woman who had been chastised would probably have been the first to turn on them.

~ The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

* * * * *

The eyes of the world were fixed upon the fate of the British Island, upon the gathering of the invading German armies, and upon the drama of the struggle for air mastery. These were of course our main preoccupations. In many countries we were presumed to be at the last gasp. Our confident and resolute bearing was admired by our friends, but its foundations were deemed unsure. Nevertheless the War Cabinet were determined to defend Egypt against all comers with whatever resources could be spared from the decisive struggle at home. All the more was this difficult when the Admiralty declared themselves unable to pass even military convoys through the Mediterranean on account of the air dangers. All must go round the Cape. Thus we might easily rob the Battle of Britain without helping the Battle of Egypt. It is odd that while at the time everyone concerned was quite calm and cheerful, writing about it afterwards makes one shiver.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….Where was the sound coming from?
….I had no time to seek out a candle. I padded to the door. The upper floor was in darkness. The bedchamber doors were closed. But the noise came from Esther’s room.
….Feeling my way, conscious that it had been years since I had stumbled across the boards to my sister’s room, I reached for the handle.
….As I stepped into the room, adjusting my sight to the blackness, I realised the rumbling sound had been the scraping and thumping of Esther’s bed against the bare boards. The convulsions of her body moved the bed, her back arched towards the ceiling, with her head and upper limbs thrashing. From her mouth were torn incomprehensible utterances, rapid and confused, hardly words at all, like the cries of tormented souls. I was terribly afraid, but resisted the urge to sink to my knees, remembering my promise to my father – you look upon a man now – and went forward. She had to be caught in the throes of some evil dream.
….“Esther!” I cried. “Wake, Esther!”

~ The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

* * * * *

….Thady begins his Memoirs of the Rackrent Family by dating Monday morning, because no great undertaking can be auspiciously commenced in Ireland on any morning but Monday morning. – ‘Oh, please God we live till Monday morning, we’ll set the slater to mend the roof of the house – On Monday morning we’ll fall to, and cut the turf – On Monday morning we’ll see and begin mowing – On Monday morning, please your honour, we’ll begin and dig the potatoes,’ &c.
….All the intermediate days between the making of such speeches and the ensuing Monday are wasted, and when Monday morning comes it is ten to one that the business is deferred to the next Monday morning. The Editor knew a gentleman who, to counteract this prejudice, made his workmen and labourers begin all new pieces of work upon a Saturday.

~ Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

* * * * *

I had only a small slit in a window in my cell but there must have been a larger window in hers because some nights the moonlight would come gushing broadly out of her cell, almost bright as day against the floor of the corridor down there. I’d roll over on my stomach, looking at the moonlight and knowing it had washed over her between window and corridor, and wondering how she looked with all that cream-colored hair curving against her pillow in the silver-blue light. I ached for the feel of her, for the smooth miracle of her beautiful body, for the color of her eyes near mine. Nona? Who was Nona? I wanted Virginia. She was a creature of moonlight, crazy as moonlight, all upthrusting radiance and hard silver dimples and hollows, built for one thing and only one thing and perfectly for that. I chewed my knuckles and wanted Virginia. I watched the moonlight spill down through the bars of the door of her cell and wondered how I’d ever thought I was sick of a thing as good as Virginia.

~ Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….He goes out of the back door, through the yard, across the common. He’s been walking with his daughter often enough to know her favourite route. Soon he is by the dried-up beck and climbing steadily along its bank up the dale.
….After a while when he is sure he is out of earshot of Liggside, he starts calling her name.
….“Lorraine! Lorraine!”
….For a long time there is nothing. Then he hears a distant bark. Tremulous with relief he presses on, over a fold of land. Ahead he sees Tig, alone, and limping badly, coming toward him.
….Oh, now the skylarks like aery spies sing, She’s here! she’s hurt! she’s here! she’s hurt! and the dancing butterflies spell out the message, She’s gone forever.
….He stoops by the injured dog and asks, “Where is she, Tig? Seek!”
….But the animal just cringes away from him as though fearful of a blow.
….He rushes on. For half an hour he ranges the fellside, seeking and shouting. Finally, because hope here is dying, he invents hope elsewhere and heads back down the slope. Tig has remained where they met. He picks him up, ignoring the animal’s yelp of pain.
….“She’ll be back home by now, just you wait and see, boy,” he says. “Just you wait and see.”
….But he knows in his heart that Lorraine would never have left Tig alone and injured up the dale.

~ On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill

* * * * *

….Véronique opened a door to reveal what must be the doctor’s workroom, for it was full of lathes, a machine with a large brass disc, some sort of engine, shelves and cupboards stacked with boxes and books. Next to the long window stood a high workbench cluttered with callipers, hacksaws, odd woodhandled tools. Further implements hung from the walls – for clockmaking, she supposed, but some had the nasty look of instruments used for torture. The whole place had a distinctive, unfamiliar smell: part soot, part chemical, part mystery.
….“This is where he creates.” Véronique opened a drawer beneath the workbench and removed a small wooden box. Inside was a silver spider that Madeleine took at first for a brooch, but before she knew what was happening, it was running across the table towards her with the hideous furtive motion of the real creature, thin silver legs rasping on the wooden surface, and it was all she could do not to scream. Abruptly, when it was only a few inches away from her, the thing came to a standstill. Véronique smiled but her eyes remained watchful. “Wonderful, isn’t it? But it isn’t yet finished.”

~ The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola

* * * * *

This was a time when all Britain worked and strove to the utmost limit and was united as never before. Men and women toiled at the lathes and machines in the factories till they fell exhausted on the floor and had to be dragged away and ordered home, while their places were occupied by newcomers ahead of time. The one desire of all the males and many women was to have a weapon. The Cabinet and Government were locked together by bonds the memory of which is still cherished by all. The sense of fear seemed entirely lacking in the people, and their representatives in parliament were not unworthy of their mood. We had not suffered like France under the German flail. Nothing moves an Englishman so much as the threat of invasion, the reality unknown for a thousand years. Vast numbers of people were resolved to conquer or die. There was no need to rouse their spirit by oratory. They were glad to hear me express their sentiments and give them good reasons for what they meant to do, or try to do. The only possible divergence was from people who wished to do even more than was possible, and had the idea that frenzy might sharpen action.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….The brown pebble eyes ever on the alert for a bargain summed up the amazing place as ideal for a select and suitably expensive boarding school – better still a College – for Young Ladies. To the delight of the Bendigo house agent who was showing her over the property she had bought it then and there, lock, stock and barrel, including the gardener, with a reduction for cash down, and moved in.
….Whether the Headmistress of Appleyard College (as the local white elephant was at once re-christened in gold lettering on a handsome board at the big iron gates) had any previous experience in the educational field, was never divulged. It was unnecessary. With her high-piled greying pompadour and ample bosom, as rigidly controlled and disciplined as her private ambitions, the cameo portrait of her late husband flat on her respectable chest, the stately stranger looked precisely what the parents expected of an English Headmistress. And as looking the part is well known to be more than half the battle in any form of business enterprise from Punch and Judy to floating a loan on the Stock Exchange, the College, from the very first day, was a success; and by the end of the first year, showing a gratifying profit.

~ Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….Just at that moment a girl, carrying a violin case, came running into Cumberland Street from Abbotsford Place closely pursued by four jeering youths. She wore a hat and was neatly dressed, but her skirt was rather longer than the prevailing fashion and she ran awkwardly, being a little bandy-legged.
….“Hey! See yon lassie carryin’ the fiddle?” shouted Johnnie excitedly. “That’s Lizzie Ramsey. Come on, Bobbie, let’s run. Be a sticker and don’t let those bastards get away w’ it.”
….Johnnie was pounding along the street before his friend knew what was happening. Bobbie ran after him, however, lagging a little when he saw that the four youths were “tough.” He thought they came from the Plantation district.
….The fact that Lizzy Ramsey was from Gorbals, while the four young men were not, was enough for Johnnie. His actions always ran ahead of his thoughts, and when he saw one of the four stopping Lizzie and beginning to twist the violin-case out of her hands, he was enraged and ready to “stick” for all he was worth
….“Nit the jorrie (Leave the girl alone)!” he yelled. “Nark it! Nark it!”

~ No Mean City by A. McArthur and H. Kingsley Long

* * * * *

….“I have said that there are cases when the findings at the inquest are reconsidered. It is all a matter of available evidence. Let us leave that for the moment, but believe me when I say that if there is any possible way in which I can help you, I will. I understand your feelings on the subject of publicity, and your anxiety to spare your parents further distress, but you – and they – will agree that a wrong verdict cannot be allowed to stand.”
….Richard Surray looked at the lean, clear-cut face of the Chief Inspector and met the glance of his observant grey eyes. When he had first talked to Macdonald he had liked him, liked his clear, straightforward intelligence, his humanity and his anxiety to have a job done properly, without reference to his own personal prestige. Watching him now, Surray knew that there was an element of ruthlessness, too, in that clear mind. Macdonald was not the man to let sentiment interfere with his job. Humane he might be, but he would stop at nothing in the pursuit of justice, and to him justice could only be obtained by minute examination of the evidence – all the evidence, omitting nothing.

~ Post After Post-Mortem by ECR Lorac

* * * * *

….The sound of voices nearby woke Staci up. She had no idea how long she’d slept, but she could tell that the sky was lightening. It must be close to dawn. She didn’t dare get up, in case whoever it was saw her. But by turning her head just a bit, she could see out from beneath the plastic bag. In a moment, the men whose voices she’d heard came into view.
….“Here’s good,” one of them said. He was tall and had a dark coat.
….The man with him grunted, “About time.” He was a little shorter, and it looked like he was wearing a parka. Together they were carrying a bunch of rolled-up blankets. Now, they put the blankets down. Tall Guy looked around. Staci didn’t even breathe as he glanced at the plastic bag. After a minute, he said, “Let’s get the hell out of here. It’s cold as a witch’s.”
….Parka Guy nodded. “Got that right.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. At least he had gloves on. Staci’s own hands grew even colder as she thought about how warm those gloves must be. The two men took one more look around, then turned away and headed back where they’d come from.

~ Streets of Gold by Margot Kinberg

* * * * *

As he crossed this awful square his dizziness cleared. After a few steps he had regained a sense of reality. He began to adjust to the atmosphere of the place. At the start fumes, a vapour, so to speak, had risen from his poet’s head, or perhaps, quite simply and prosaically, from his empty stomach and this, interposed between objects and himself, had let him glimpse them only through the incoherent haze of nightmare, through the obscurity of those dreams which blur every edge, distort every shape, piling up objects into disproportionate groups, inflating things into chimeras and people into phantoms. Gradually these hallucinations were succeeded by a vision less distraught and less exaggerating. Reality dawned around him, touched his sight, touched his feet, and bit by bit dismantled all the poetry of terror with which he had at first believed himself to be surrounded. He was forced to realise that he was not walking in the Styx but in the mire, that he was not being jostled by devils but by robbers; that it was not his soul that was at stake but quite simply his life (since he lacked the precious intermediary which so effectively conciliates thief and honest man: a purse). Finally, as he examined the orgy more closely and coolly, he fell from a witches’ sabbath to a tavern.

~ Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Christie Week: Bookish Selfie. . .

A snapshot of my Christie reading in quotes…

(One of the problems with audiobooks as opposed to paper books is that I find trying to highlight quotes too distracting, so my audio reviews rarely contain quotes. However, I’ve collected a few along the way, so here’s a little retrospective of some that I think show Ms Christie’s wit and style, her underrated characterisation and her occasional but very effective forays into spookiness… )

….‘Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.’ How would that strike you if you read it?”
….“It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic.”
….“It’s not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning ‘Petunia’ and signed ‘Best Boy.’” She tore out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. “There you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect it will be about five shillings. Here’s half a crown for my share.”
….Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His face burned a deeper red.
….“Shall we really try it?” he said at last. “Shall we, Tuppence? Just for the fun of the thing?”
….“Tommy, you’re a sport! I knew you would be! Let’s drink to success.” She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.
….“Here’s to our joint venture, and may it prosper!”
….“The Young Adventurers, Ltd!” responded Tommy.

~ Tommy and Tuppence in The Secret Adversary

* * * * *

….“She’s suffered a great deal in her life. A large part of the suffering has been her own fault, but some of it hasn’t. None of her marriages has been happy except, I’d say, this last one. She’s married to a man now who loves her dearly and who’s loved her for years. She’s sheltering in that love, and she’s happy in it. At least, at the moment she’s happy in it. One can’t say how long all that will last. The trouble with her is that either she thinks that at last she’s got to that spot or place or that moment in her life where everything’s like a fairy tale come true, that nothing can go wrong, that she’ll never be unhappy again; or else she’s down in the dumps, a woman whose life is ruined, who’s never known love and happiness and who never will again.”
….He added dryly, “If she could only stop halfway between the two it’d be wonderful for her, and the world would lose a fine actress.”

~ The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side

* * * * *

The others went upstairs, a slow unwilling procession. If this had been an old house, with creaking wood, and dark shadows, and heavily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feeling. But this house was the essence of modernity. There were no dark corners – no possible sliding panels – it was flooded with electric light – everything was new and bright and shining. There was nothing hidden in this house, nothing concealed. It had no atmosphere about it. Somehow, that was the most frightening thing of all. They exchanged good-nights on the upper landing. Each of them went into his or her own room, and each of them automatically, almost without conscious thought, locked the door…

~ And Then There Were None

* * * * *

….“Please, sir, can we see the body?”
….“No, you can’t,” said Inspector Bacon… “Have you ever seen a blonde woman wearing a light-coloured dyed squirrel coat anywhere about the place?”
….“Well, I can’t remember exactly,” said Alexander astutely. “If I were to have a look…”
….“Take ’em in, Sanders,” said Inspector Bacon to the constable who was standing by the barn door. “One’s only young once!”
….“Oh, sir, thank you, sir.” Both boys were vociferous. “It’s very kind of you, sir.”

~ 4:50 from Paddington

* * * * *

Mystery writer Mrs. Oliver discussing her own fictional detective…

“How do I know?” said Mrs. Oliver crossly. “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

~ Mrs McGinty’s Dead

* * * * *

“I’ve never been an advocate of teetotalism. A little strong drink is always advisable on the premises in case there is a shock or an accident. Invaluable at such times. Or, of course, if a gentleman should arrive suddenly.”

~ Miss Marple quoted in Murder, She Said

* * * * *

The curtains of the alcove seemed to have been pulled back a little, the medium’s figure was just visible through the opening, her head fallen forward on her breast. Suddenly Madame Exe drew in her breath sharply. A ribbon-like stream of mist was issuing from the medium’s mouth. It condensed and began gradually to assume a shape, the shape of a little child.

~ The Last Séance from the collection The Hound Of Death  

* * * * *

She paused, then, her agreeable husky voice deepening, she said venomously, “I loathe the sight of you, you bloody little bourgeois detective.”
….She swept away from him in a swirl of expensive, model drapery. Hercule Poirot remained, his eyes very wide open, his eyebrows raised, and his hand thoughtfully caressing his moustaches. The epithet ‘bourgeois’ was, he admitted, well applied to him. His outlook on life was essentially bourgeois and always had been. But the employment of it as an epithet of contempt by the exquisitely turned out Jane Olivera gave him, as he expressed it to himself, furiously to think.

~ One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

* * * * *

So… have you a quote to add?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….When Florence cried, Gabriel was moving outward in fiery darkness, talking to the Lord. Her cry came to him from afar, as from unimaginable depths; and it was not his sister’s cry he heard, but the cry of the sinner when he is taken in his sin. This was the cry he had heard so many days and nights, before so many altars, and he cried tonight, as he had cried before: ‘Have your way, Lord! Have your way!’
….Then there was only silence in the church. Even Praying Mother Washington had ceased to moan. Soon someone would cry again, and the voices would begin again; there would be music by and by, and shouting, and the sound of the tambourines. But now in this waiting, burdened silence it seemed that all flesh waited – paused, transfixed by something in the middle of the air – for the quickening power.

~ Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin

Reminder: Review-Along date 16th February.

* * * * *

….“OK, on you go, get the rest of the pics done.”
….She stepped back and waited. A score of clicks later, she gingerly moved the tarpaulin away from the side door and tried the handle. It opened easily, sliding back on well-oiled runners.
….On the floor of the van lay a disarticulated collection of bones, the skull with its corona of shed dark hair towards the front end, the scatter of tarsals and phalanges pointing towards the rear. Maggot pupae cases, like macabre Coco Pops, were scattered everywhere around and among the bones, evidence of why the body was stripped clean of flesh. It looked as if the victim had fallen or been placed on their side. What was clear from the first glance was that ‘victim’ was the right word. Across the back of the skull was the jagged crack of an obvious depressed fracture. Someone or something had hit this person very hard indeed.

~ Still Life by Val McDermid

* * * * *

There Chinese gentry and merchants took refuge in the International Settlement, turning [Shanghai] into a large Chinese city in which non-Chinese formed a tiny (but ruling) minority. By 1880 there were over 100,000 Chinese in the settlement, and just over 1000 British. The value of property shot up and the demand for the goods and services of a large urban centre grew spectacularly. ‘Foreign’ Shanghai became something much more than a commercial emporium. Over the rest of the century it gradually took on the appearance of a great modern city with wide thoroughfares, hotels and department stores, and elegant suburbs as well as the grand edifices lining the Bund. There were theatres, modern hospitals, schools and colleges, libraries and museums, as well as a racecourse (a very early arrival). There were newspapers, European and Chinese, including the North China Herald, a weekly founded in 1850, with up to ninety pages densely packed with news from all parts of the world, and its counterpart daily, the North China Daily News. There were also the innumerable bars, brothels and opium dens that catered for both Chinese and foreigners, and the shophouses behind which (as in Singapore or Hong Kong) much of the Chinese population – shopkeepers, craftsmen, mill-workers, labourers, porters, hawkers, rickshaw-pullers, prostitutes and servants – had to live: these were the ‘shed people’. Shanghai, wrote a 20th century observer, was ‘a city of forty-eight storey skyscrapers built upon twenty-four layers of hell’.

~ Unlocking the World by John Darwin

* * * * *

….Wednesday was fine, and soon after breakfast the barouche arrived, Mr Crawford driving his sisters; and as every body was ready, there was nothing to be done but for Mrs Grant to alight and the others to take their places. The place of all places, the envied seat, the post of honour, was unappropriated. To whose happy lot was it to fall? While each of the Miss Bertrams were meditating how best, and with most appearance of obliging the others, to secure it, the matter was settled by Mrs Grant’s saying, as she stepped from the carriage, ‘As there are five of you, it will be better that one should sit with Henry, and as you were saying lately, that you wished you could drive, Julia, I think this will be a good opportunity for you to take a lesson.’
….Happy Julia! Unhappy Maria! The former was on the barouche-box in a moment, the latter took her seat within, in gloom and mortification; and the carriage drove off amid the good wishes of the two remaining ladies, and the barking of pug in his mistress’s arms.

~ Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….That work room was most the solid and siccar in our house, its hidden heart. My father in a rare flight of fancy cried it The Doo-Cot. Not that we kept doves in it, but rather scrolls of contracts, receipts and undertakings. These roosted together within the wooden cubbyholes that lined three walls of the room, from knee-height to ceiling.
….My father made them himself from ornate panelling ripped from Blackfriars following one of Preacher Knox’s inspirational sermons on Christ cleansing the Temple. Most of the ornamentation had been prised or slashed off the panels, but the occasional serpent, Tree of Life, sheaf of corn and mild ox remained, to my delight as a bairn. They became part of his filing system. You’ll find the Mar papers lying down next tae the Lamb, or, with relish, The Archbishop’s accounts are to the richt o the Gates o Hell.

~ Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig

* * * * *

….And although it is not among the instincts wild or domestic of the cat tribe to play at cards, feline from sole to crown was Mr. Carker the Manager, as he basked in the strip of summer-light and warmth that shone upon his table and the ground as if they were a crooked dial-plate, and himself the only figure on it. With hair and whiskers deficient in colour at all times, but feebler than common in the rich sunshine, and more like the coat of a sandy tortoise-shell cat; with long nails, nicely pared and sharpened; with a natural antipathy to any speck of dirt, which made him pause sometimes and watch the falling motes of dust, and rub them off his smooth white hand or glossy linen: Mr. Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth, soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if he were waiting at a mouse’s hole.

~ Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

* * * * *


….The thing about hearing a story like The Count of Monte Cristo from the one-thousand-page version is that whenever you sense an exciting part is coming, you have to wait and wait and wait for it to actually arrive. In fact, sometimes you have to wait so long you forget that it’s coming altogether and let yourself drift off to sleep. But in Billy’s big red book, Professor Abernathe had chosen to tell the entire story over the course of eight pages. So in his version, when you sensed an exciting part was coming, it arrived lickety-split.
….Like the part that Billy was reading now – the part when Edmond Dantès, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, is carted off to spend the rest of his life in the dreaded Château D’If. Even as he is being led in chains through the prison’s formidable gates, you just know that Dantès is bound to escape. But in Mr Dumas’s telling, before he regains his freedom you have to listen to so many sentences spread across so many chapters that it begins to feel like you are the one who is in the Château D’If!

~ The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

* * * * *


….Places, like people, have varying moods, and the moods of London are legion. Perhaps you know London best in a mood of restless toil and ceaseless purpose, or else in a spirit of nocturnal mirth and music. Perhaps your instinctive thought lingers in a dull and dreary street oppressed by the broodings of small happenings that never escape beyond front-doors; on the Embankment at dusk, with its gathering of human shadows; on the poverty of Mile End, the pathos of Regent Street, or the hard splendour of Park Lane’s new palaces.
….But there is one London which you may never or rarely have met. It is the London of the cold grey hour, and you are wise to miss it, for in its period of transition it has nothing gracious to offer you. The tail end of a tired blackness. The gradual, grudging intrusion of a light not yet conscious of its purpose. The chill of empty spaces. The loneliness of eternity. Yesterday’s newspaper slowly materialising on the pavement. Like a woman surprised before she has had a chance to shake off the night and beautify herself for the day, London gives no welcome to intruders at this hour. It pays them back heavily for having witnessed the ugly chaos of its
re-creation.

~ The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

The customary expedient of provincial girls and men in such circumstances is churchgoing. In an ordinary village or country town one can safely calculate that, either on Christmas day or the Sunday contiguous, any native home for the holidays, who has not through age or ennui lost the appetite for seeing and being seen, will turn up in some pew or other, shining with hope, self-consciousness, and new clothes. Thus the congregation on Christmas morning is mostly a Tussaud collection of celebrities who have been born in the neighbourhood. Hither the mistress, left neglected at home all the year, can steal and observe the development of the returned lover who has forgotten her, and think as she watches him over her prayer book that he may throb with a renewed fidelity when novelties have lost their charm. And hither a comparatively recent settler like Eustacia may betake herself to scrutinize the person of a native son who left home before her advent upon the scene, and consider if the friendship of his parents be worth cultivating during his next absence in order to secure a knowledge of him on his next return.

~The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

* * * * *

Leila was scared. What had started off yesterday as a sort of game wasn’t fun any more. She was thinking she really shouldn’t have gone along with it. But he’d been so nice at the start – kind and caring. He’d said he was worried about her and told her she was pretty. Her mother called her plain. He’d said a young girl like her shouldn’t be out all by herself after dark. It wasn’t safe and it was very wrong of her mother not to look after her properly, which Leila sort of knew. He’d said he would take care of her and together they’d teach her mother a lesson. He’d given her chocolates – really posh ones with soft centres – and told her he’d bought her a beautiful doll and it was waiting for her in his flat. It wasn’t like she was going with a stranger – she would never have done that. She knew him, so did her mother, which made it OK.

~Taken by Lisa Stone

* * * * *

….Tormad blew up his big buoy until his eyes disappeared. He had got it from the man in Golspie, and though its skin crackled with age it seemed tight enough. He could hardly blow up the second one for laughing, because it was the bag of an old set of pipes to which they had danced many a time as boys. It had a legendary history, for the old piper, its owner, had been a wild enough lad in his day. When he was driven from home, he cursed the landlord-woman (who had inherited all that land), her sassenach husband, her factors, in tongues of fire. Then he had broken his pipes, tearing them apart. It had been an impressive, a terrifying scene, and shortly after it he had died.
….Well, here was the bag, and perhaps it marked not an end but a beginning! They had had a little superstitious fear about using it. But they couldn’t afford to buy another buoy, and, anyway, they argued, if it brought them luck it would be a revenge over the powers that be. The dead piper wouldn’t be disappointed at that!

~The Silver Darlings by Neil M. Gunn

* * * * *

….Don Miguel’s mind swirled like water in a rotated cup. He put his hands to his head and struggled to think clearly. He had been trained to some extent in casuistry, and he could see the dim outlines of a logical sequence here. Postulate: the terrible women gladiators who wrought the harm originated in a non-actual world – a world brought about through the experimental interference of Society members with their own past history. Therefore the consequences of their acts were also non-actual, or potential. Therefore the rectification of these consequences must be not non-actual, if this was a safe case to exclude the middle…
….It came to him with blinding, horrifying suddenness that in fact, in the fact where he must now have found himself, all the nightmare so vivid in his memory had already not happened.

~The Society of Time by John Brunner

* * * * *

….Hopkins stood and, as Ismay recalled it, first made “a tilt or two at the British Constitution in general, and the irrepressible Prime Minister in particular.” Then he turned to face Churchill.
….“I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return,” he said.
….This was an understatement. Churchill was desperate to know how well his courtship of Hopkins was progressing, and what indeed he would tell the President.
….“Well,” Hopkins said, “I’m going to quote you one verse from that Book of Books in the truth of which Mr. Johnson’s mother and my own Scottish mother were brought up – ”
….Hopkins dropped his voice to a near whisper and recited a passage from the Bible’s Book of Ruth: “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
….Then, softly, he added: “Even to the end.”
….This was his own addition, and with it a wave of gratitude and relief seemed to engulf the room.
….Churchill wept.

~The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….That I still “funked” Michael Bristow was certainly no fault of Hilda’s, who has never funked anything in her life.
….For I fear that “funk” is the true description of my attitude. I funked him as one may begin to funk an acquaintance who shows signs of becoming a criminal or a lunatic, or of developing some loathsome disease. I thought about him and his peculiarity and his affairs as little as I possibly could. I do not like oddities. And I could no longer conceal from myself that he was definitely an oddity. I even feared secretly that, as Hilda thought, he might be a momentous sort of oddity, though this I would never admit even to myself. In spite of Hilda, I avoided witnessing any systematic demonstrations of his power; yet I was always coming up against little differences, odd scraps of knowledge and intuition in him, which disturbed me more than I would acknowledge.
….There was the evening when Hilda made him detect a new cigarette-case in my pocket from several yards’ distance. I never liked to see his moving, groping, hesitating fingers, as it were, pick up the scent.

~The Man with Six Senses by Muriel Jaeger

* * * * *

….Memories – they are all the aged have. The young have hopes and dreams, while the old hold the remains of them in their hands and wonder what has happened to their lives. I looked back hard on my life that night, from the moments of my reckless youth, through the painful and tragic years of the war, to the solitary decades after. Yes, I could say that I had lived my life, if not to the full then at least almost to the brim. What more could one ask? Rare is the person whose life overflows. I have lived, I have travelled the world, and now, like a worn out clock, my life is winding down, the hands slowing, stepping out of the flow of time. If one steps out of time what does one have? Why, the past of course, gradually being worn away by the years as a pebble halted on a riverbed is eroded by the passage of water.

~The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

* * * * *

….“She’s suffered a great deal in her life. A large part of the suffering has been her own fault, but some of it hasn’t. None of her marriages has been happy except, I’d say, this last one. She’s married to a man now who loves her dearly and who’s loved her for years. She’s sheltering in that love, and she’s happy in it. At least, at the moment she’s happy in it. One can’t say how long all that will last. The trouble with her is that either she thinks that at last she’s got to that spot or place or that moment in her life where everything’s like a fairy tale come true, that nothing can go wrong, that she’ll never be unhappy again; or else she’s down in the dumps, a woman whose life is ruined, who’s never known love and happiness and who never will again.”
….He added dryly, “If she could only stop halfway between the two it’d be wonderful for her, and the world would lose a fine actress.”

~The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie narrated by Joan Hickson

* * * * *

….It is in the nature of revolutions to throw up moments when all the more brilliant dreams of the human race seem about to be realized, and the Catalans with their expansive and self-dramatizing character were not behind other peoples in this respect. Visitors to Barcelona in the autumn of 1936 will never forget the moving and uplifting experience and, as the resistance to the military rebellion stiffened, the impressions they brought back with them spread to wider and wider circles. Spain became the scene of a drama in which it seemed as if the fortunes of the civilized world were being played out in miniature. As in a crystal, those people who had eyes for the future looked, expecting to read there their own fate.

~The Spanish Labyrinth by Gerald Brenan

* * * * *

….The up-and-at-’em start time was all for show. For humanity divided into two mutually hostile camps: bounders out of bed and burners of the midnight oil. The distinction went way beyond schedule. The late nighter was synonymous with mischief, imagination, rebellion, transgression, anarchy, and excess, not to mention drugs, alcohol, and sex. The early riser evoked traditional Protestant values like obedience, industry, discipline, and thrift, but also, in this gladness to greet the day, a militant, even fascistic determination to look on the bright side. In short, rise-and-shiners were revolting, and being flapped by so many birds getting the worm felt like getting trapped in an Alfred Hitchcock remake. These bouncy, boisterous, bubbly people loved their seven thirty start, which shouted earnestness and asceticism, and any attempt to move the time to noon for the next year would trigger a riot.

~The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….Men ploughed with wooden ploughs and yoked oxen, small on a boundless expanse, as if attacking immensity itself. The mounted figures of vaqueros galloped in the distance, and the great herds fed with all their horned heads one way, in one single wavering line as far as eye could reach across the broad potreros. A spreading cotton-wood tree shaded a thatched ranch by the road; the trudging files of burdened Indians taking off their hats, would lift sad, mute eyes to the cavalcade raising the dust of the crumbling camino real made by the hands of their enslaved forefathers. And Mrs. Gould, with each day’s journey, seemed to come nearer to the soul of the land in the tremendous disclosure of this interior unaffected by the slight European veneer of the coast towns, a great land of plain and mountain and people, suffering and mute, waiting for the future in a pathetic immobility of patience.

~Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

* * * * *

….In 1564-5, cloth and woollens account for 81.6 per cent (by value) of all the exports from England – amounting to some £1,100,000 – and the largest proportion of the remaining 18.4 per cent is raw wool, followed by woolfells. This is why you will see so many sheep in England: more than eight million of them, twice as many as there are people. Having said that, these are not quite the animals with which you are familiar: they are very small. Average weights are gradually rising (through improvements in husbandry), from about 28lbs per sheep in 1500 to 46lbs in 1600, with the largest weighing 60lbs; but still these are tiny by comparison with modern ewes, which weigh 100-200lbs (a modern ram can weigh more than 350lbs). Much the same can be said for the cattle (about 350lbs in Elizabethan times, and 1,200-1,600lbs today).

~The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

* * * * *

….On one side it was tied to the window grille of the church tower, on the other to a flagpole jutting out of the wall next to the window of the town hall where the reeve worked, which didn’t happen often, however, because he was lazy. In the window stood the young woman, who must have just knotted the rope – but how, we wondered, had she stretched it? You could be here or there, in this window or in the other, you could easily knot a rope and drop it, but how did you get it back up to the other window to fasten the other end?
….We gaped. For a while it seemed to us as if the rope itself were the trick and nothing more were required. A sparrow landed on it, took a small jump, spread its wings, changed its mind, and stayed perched there.
….Then Tyll Ulenspiegel appeared in the church tower window. He waved, jumped onto the windowsill, stepped onto the rope. He did it as if it were nothing. He did it as if it were only a step like any other. None of us spoke, none shouted, none moved. We had stopped breathing.

~Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (subsequently abandoned for being tiresome)

* * * * *

….Indubitably a public school ‘chap’, [Charles Hamilton] Sorley nevertheless rejected Rupert Brooke’s war poetry as too clothed in ‘fine words’ and a ‘sentimental attitude’. Some of his own best verse fuses body and soul as he sings of the physical exaltation of running, or of being at one with the earth in battle. For Sorley the German troops are simply ‘blind like us’. One of his last poems is a verse letter to his Scottish friend John Bain, praising Homer, and there is probably an allusion to The Iliad in the tenth line of his magnificently uncompromising final sonnet, found in his kit when it was sent home from France after Sorley had been shot in the head by a sniper:

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, “They are dead.” Then add thereto,
“Yet many a better one has died before.”
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

~Scotland’s Books by Robert Crawford

* * * * *

….She hauled the blind open again, turning Logan’s computer screen into an eye-watering blare of light.
….‘Argh….’ He backed away from it, squinting.
….‘Sitting here in the dark like a wee troll.’ She cracked the window open, letting in the diesel growl of buses and the seagulls’ mournful cries. ‘It’s no’ good for you.’ The tip of her e-cigarette/sonic screwdriver glowed as she sooked. A huge cloud of watermelon vape drifted its way around Logan’s head, glowing in the sunlight. ‘Come on then, what you doing?’
….‘Investigating.’ Logan held up a hand, blocking the glare from his screen. ‘Or at least I’m trying to.’
….‘I know that, you idiot; investigating, what?’
….‘People’s Army for Scottish Liberation. Apparently they had ties to the Scottish People’s Liberation Army, the Scottish Freedom Fighters’ Resistance Front, End of Empire, and Arbroath Thirteen Twenty. AKA nutters so extreme that even Settler Watch didn’t want anything to do with them.’
….Another cloud of fruity smelling fog. ‘It’s Womble-funting dick-muppets like that who give good old-fashioned Scottish Nationalists a bad name.’

~All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride

(NB I have no idea what ‘Womble-funting dick-muppets’ means, so if it’s as obscene as I fear, I apologise.)

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….“But I do beg you will not countenance that thoughtless way people have of flinging them up into the air. It is liable to do great harm, to confuse their intellects; and a girl, when grown into a woman, has greater need of her intellect than a man. It is a grievous error to fling them to the ceiling.”
….“God’s my life!” cried Jack, pausing in his stride. “You don’t tell me so? I thought they liked being tossed up – they laugh and crow and so on, almost human. But I shall never do it again, although they are only girls, poor little swabs.”
….“It is curious, the way you dwell upon their sex. They are your own children, for all love, your very flesh; and yet I could almost suppose, and not only from your referring to them as swabs, a disobliging term, that you were disappointed in them, merely for being girls. It is, to be sure, a misfortune for them – the Orthodox Jew daily thanks his Maker for not having been born a woman, and we might well echo his gratitude – but I cannot for the life of me see how it affects you, your aim being, as I take it, posterity, a vicarious immortality: and for that a girl is if anything a better assurance than a boy.”

~The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian

* * * * *

….That same day Rachel couldn’t remember which side her father had parted his hair on, and she’d realized again what she’d learned at five when her mother left – that what made losing someone you loved bearable was not remembering but forgetting. Forgetting small things first, the smell of the soap her mother had bathed with, the color of the dress she’d worn to church, then after a while the sound of her mother’s voice, the color of her hair. It amazed Rachel how much you could forget, and everything you forgot made that person less alive inside you until you could finally endure it. After more time had passed you could let yourself remember, even want to remember. But even then what you felt those first days could return and remind you the grief was still there, like old barbed wire embedded in a tree’s heartwood.
….And now this brown-eyed child. Don’t love it, Rachel told herself. Don’t love anything that can be taken away.

~Serena by Ron Rash

* * * * *

….“But you do believe, don’t you,” Rose implored him, “you think it’s true?”
….“Of course it’s true,” the Boy said. “What else could there be?” he went scornfully on. “Why,” he said, “it’s the only thing that fits. These atheists, they don’t know nothing. Of course there’s Hell. Flames and damnation,” he said with his eyes on the dark shifting water and the lightning and the lamps going out above the black struts of the Palace Pier, “torments.”
….“And Heaven too,” Rose said with anxiety, while the rain fell interminably on.
….“Oh, maybe,” the Boy said, “maybe.”

~Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

* * * * *

….Madam Flemington and the minister sat opposite to each other, silent. He was evidently trying to make a beginning of his business, but his companion was not in a mood to help him. He was a person who wearied her, and she hated red hair; besides which, she was an Episcopalian and out of sympathy with himself and his community. She found him common and limited, and at the present moment, intrusive.
….“It’s sma’ pleasure I have in coming to Ardguys the day,” he began, and then stopped, because her eyes paralysed his tongue.
….“You are no flatterer,” said she.
….But the contempt in her voice braced him.
….“Indeed, that I am not, madam,” he replied; “neither shall it be said of me that I gang back from my duty. Nane shall assail nor make mock of the Kirk while I am its minister.”
….“Who has made a mock of the Kirk, my good man?”
….“Airchie.”
….The vision of her eight-year-old grandson going forth, like a young David, to war against the Presbyterian stronghold, brought back Madam Flemington’s good-humour.
….“Ye may smile, madam,” said Duthie, plunged deeper into the vernacular by agitation, “ay, ye may lauch. But it ill beseems the grey hair on yer pow.”
….Irony always pleased her and she laughed outright, showing her strong white teeth. It was not only Archie and the Kirk that amused her, but the whimsical turn of her own fate which had made her hear such an argument from a man. It was not thus that men had approached her in the old days.

~Flemington by Violet Jacob

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….Why hadn’t the explorers known by looking at the sky that the world was round? The sky was curved, like the inside of a huge glass ball, very dark blue with the sprinkles of bright stars. The night was quiet. There was the smell of warm cedars. She was not trying to think of the music at all when it came back to her. The first part happened in her mind just as it had been played. She listened in a quiet, slow way and thought the notes out like a problem in geometry so she would remember. She could see the shape of the sounds very clear and she would not forget them.

~The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

* * * * *

….Through the window of the bar parlour the short red face of Mr. Clark could be seen peering after the lorry. It carried some country policeman in uniform. As near the pond as it could get, it stopped. The policemen clambered down and hauled out a cumbrous apparatus of iron and rope.
….The Chief Constable strode up to the pond. “It’s not so big, Mr. Fortune. We’ll soon make sure one way or the other.”
….“Yes, yes.” Reggie walked around the bank and measured distances with his eye. “We’re going to make quite sure. They couldn’t throw him further than this. Begin from here and work towards that end.”
….The drags were put in and the constabulary hauled and the black water grew turbid and yellow. The ropes strained. “Got something,” the Chief Constable grunted. “Go steady, lads.” Out of the depths of the pond into the shallows came a shapeless mass of cloth. Policemen splashed in and lifted on to the bank something that had been a man.

~The Football Photograph by HC Bailey, in Settling Scores

* * * * *

….“We want a cheap loaf, cheap bread and provisions cheaper!”
….From the back came a song, quiet at first then louder as we all joined in.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common off the goose.

….All of us singing. I hadn’t known the words before I went in, but they were fixed pretty straight by the time I came out.
….I crossed the street, humming the tune and the thought of a good roast goose dinner in my head. I’d have it with sausages or a thick slice of bacon. I didn’t mind. Bacon. My tummy near collapsed at the thought. And peas. All the peas I could eat.
….It was punishing to think of.
….All the singing in the world couldn’t hide a thing. I was hard hungry. And I was no nearer to being fed.

~The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd

* * * * *

….When he writes of the siege of St Andrews Castle Knox can be pacily exciting, but here his tone is warmly hagiographical. He dramatizes Wishart’s words effortlessly. Knox’s plain prose is quickened by biblical phrasings, spiced by local and temporal details like the dyke at the edge of the moor and the pleasant sunshine. In such vignettes Knox writes like a proto-novelist. His wish to manipulate history seems to prepare the soil for the historical novel which would take strong root in Scotland centuries later in the age of Walter Scott. Elsewhere, as Knox delights in flourishing long transcripts of his own arguments and speeches, the reader is soon wearied by his hectoring egotism and realizes that for this man a three-hour sermon might have been on the short side.

~Scotland’s Books by Robert Crawford

* * * * *

….At last we were at the cathedral. Its great grey front, embellished with hundreds of statues and boasting a pair of the finest oak doors in Europe, rose for the first time before me, and the sudden sense of my audacity almost overcame me. Everything was in a mist as I dismounted. I saw the Marshall and Sapt dimly, and dimly the throng of gorgeously robed priests who awaited me. And my eyes were still dim as I walked up the great nave, with the pealing of the organ in my ears. I saw nothing of the brilliant throng that filled it, I hardly distinguished the stately figure of the Cardinal as he rose from the archiepiscopal throne to greet me. Two faces only stood out side by side clearly before my eyes – the face of a girl, pale and lovely, surmounted by a crown of the glorious Elphberg hair (for in a woman it is glorious), and the face of a man, whose full-blooded red cheeks, black hair, and dark deep eyes told me that at last I was in presence of my brother, Black Michael. And when he saw me his red cheeks went pale all in a moment, and his helmet fell with a clatter on the floor. Till that moment, I believe that he had not realised that the king was in very truth come to Strelsau.

~The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….“We are deciding which gowns and kirtles to take to Greenwich next week, my lord,” Elizabeth explained to her husband. “I have so many new ones and Lady Verney is kindly modelling them for me so that I can see how they look.” She nodded at Eleanor to carry on and the king watched attentively as the model demonstrated an elegant green brocade gown, showing how the skirt flowed behind her as she walked, and the full marten-trimmed pink sleeves, tied with silver laces, were draped from the elbow to show the tight cream-embroidered linen sleeves of the kirtle beneath. His obvious interest led me to surmise that the world of female fashion was something of a mystery to him.

~The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

* * * * *

….Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd. They came in by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down Queen’s Road standing on the tops of the little local trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into fresh and glittering air: the new silver paint sparkled on the piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian watercolour; a race in miniature motors, a band playing, flower gardens in bloom below the front, an aeroplane advertising something for the health in pale vanishing clouds across the sky.

~Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

* * * * *

….Walking back to the door, avoiding the broken floorboards, she realised something else had been bothering her all this time. And now she knew what it was: that smell from her dream last night, it was in here too.
….The room spun and suddenly all she could smell was that cloying stink, She needed to get out, needed fresh air.
….She waited, listening for anyone outside in the corridor, because she didn’t want them to find her here.
….When she turned the handle, it wobbled but the door didn’t move. She tried again, this time putting her weight behind it.
….The latch. The fucking latch. Why had she let it close behind her?
….She wrenched at the door handle, twisted and turned it, pushed and pulled. Come on, come on. Rattled and shook it. Move.
….At last the handle began to shift and she pushed down harder, shifted her weight backwards. And the handle came off in her hand.

~The Guest House by Abbie Frost

* * * * *

….He pretended to notice Wield for the first time, went close to him and put his mouth next to his ear.
….“Ah, Sergeant Wield,” he murmured. “Any messages for me?”
….“No, sir,” said Wield. “Not that I know of.”
….“Not even from the other bloody side!” bellowed Dalziel. He looked as if he was about to thump the sergeant with the paper.
….“It’s all a mistake, sir,” interposed Pascoe hastily.
….“Mistake? Certainly it’s a bloody mistake. I go down to Birmingham for a conference. Hello Andy, they all say. How’s that Choker of yours? they all say. Fine, I say. All under control, I say. That was the bloody mistake! You know what it says here in this rag?”
….He unfolded the paper with some difficulty.
….“It has long been common practice among American police forces to call on the aid of clairvoyants when they are baffled,” he read. “I leave a normal English CID unit doing its job. I come back and suddenly it’s the Mid-Yorkshire precinct and we’re baffled! No wonder Kojak’s bald.”
….Pascoe risked a smile. Lots of things made Dalziel angry. Not having his jokes appreciated was one of them.

~A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill

* * * * *

From the Archives:

….A small world might seem limiting, but think of the pleasure in owning a world the size of a small town and surveying the domain like a colossus. The gravity of Wild 2 is so weak you would literally be as light as a feather. A small push and you could escape your world and sail into deep space. And think of the glittering minerals – a hoard magnificent enough to power all the dreams ever dreamed.

~Dreams of Other Worlds by Chris Impey and Holly Henry

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….A boy rushed past him carrying a rock the size of a soda can, and Shawn wondered where it could’ve come from, this rough chunk of nature in a village trimmed with locked doors and polished glass. Then he noticed three wide-shouldered men surrounding a tree, breaking off branches. They looked almost calm – the fire in their eyes was not wildfire, but a controlled, channelled anger.
….He followed them. He wasn’t alone – the crowd seemed to converge behind them. From the corner of one eye, he saw a flash of movement, a boy jumping to land on a parked car, but he stayed behind the three men with their branches, trailing them with a sense of wonder. Fists flew up all around him, and voices rose in exuberance and fury, their words swarming together until they morphed into chants. “Black power!” “Fight the power!”
….And the men swung their branches, shattering a wall of glass.

~Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

* * * * *

….The statues are disappearing. They are covered in sandbags, or wooden planking. They’ve been carried down to cellars, or camouflaged. Peter’s bronze horse no longer rears above the city, smashing the air. His hooves beat against the sand which packs against him and the planks that mask him.
….The whole city is going into disguise, and its people are going into disguise with it, carrying pickaxes, spades and entrenching tools over their shoulders, smearing their faces with sweat and dirt, clodding their boots with mud. They’ve taken trams and trains out of the city, to work on its defences. They sleep in hay, boil water for tea over twig fires, and bandage their blistered city hands with rags. Students, schoolchildren, women, old men: they’re all here, digging for their lives.

~The Siege by Helen Dunmore – now abandoned, due to a) present tense and b) the author having forgotten to include a plot…

* * * * *

….“…I, for one, felt a curious reluctance to enter that dark foreboding belt of trees. Something stronger than myself seemed to be holding me back and urging me not to enter. I felt more definitely convinced than ever of the evilness of the spot. I think that some of the others experienced the same sensations that I did, though they would have been loath to admit it. The trees were so closely planted that the moonlight could not penetrate. There were a dozen soft sounds all round us, whisperings and sighings. The feeling was eerie in the extreme, and by common consent we all kept close together.
….“Suddenly we came out into the open clearing in the middle of the grove and stood rooted to the spot in amazement, for there, on the threshold of the Idol House, stood a shimmering figure wrapped tightly round in diaphanous gauze and with two crescent horns rising from the dark masses of her hair.
….“‘My God!’ said Richard Haydon, and the sweat sprang out on his brow.”

~The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

* * * * *

….Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the forest, and near the river two bronze figures, leaning on tall spears, stood in the sunlight under fantastic head-dresses of spotted skins, warlike and still in statuesque repose. And from right to left along the lighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman.
….She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She carried her head high; her hair was done in the shape of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brass wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck; bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men, that hung about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.

~Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

* * * * *

(Context: a verra Scottish doctor, McBane, and a very English Major, Boddy, attempt to have a conversation…)

….The Major . . . faced the others with a solemn expression. “There seems no doubt, eh? It is suicide – what?”
….“You’d be a fool to go lookin’ for any other explanation,” said McBane witheringly. “But I wonder why she deed it.”
….North shook his head. “We’ve no line on the motive so far, sir.”
….“Damn all,” added Boddy. “Damn all, McBane.”
….“Wi’ a wumman,” said McBane philosophically, “whatever she does ’tis a waste o’ guid time to look for a motive. A wumman’s motiveless, wi’oot direction – a boot wi’oot a rudder.”
….“Boot?” asked the Major with a puzzled look.
….“Aye – a sheep, mon, a sheep wi’oot a body at the helm.”
….“A sheep?” inquired the Major. “Confound it all, McBane, why a sheep?”
….McBane eyed him with a baleful glint. “I’m theenking your stupeedity is too profound to be genuine. Wull ye quit your havering, mon?”

~Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….Now, thirty years after it all ended, the Slow seemed the most natural thing in the world. It felt quaint to imagine people reacting to it with shock.
….Hopper knew she was one of the last ‘before’ children: born four years before the planet’s rotation finally stopped. She was a rarity. There had been plenty born since, of course, but the birth rate had plummeted in those final years. The world had paused, waiting for the cataclysm, and those children already young had been treated like royalty – fed well, treated whenever possible, as if in premature apology for a spoiled planet their parents could not mend.
….But during those years, new children were perceived at best as an extravagance, at worst as a cruelty. Why bring a child into a world winding itself down? The chaos and shortages at the end of the Slow had kept the planet’s libido in check.

~The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray

* * * * *

….Mrs. Dreed was not a housekeeper; she was an atmosphere. She was a chill wind blowing down a corridor. A draught under the door. A silence descending on a cocktail party. A shadow on the grass. Mrs. Dreed was always present before she was actually noticed. A premonitory shiver went down the spine, a turn of the head, and there she was – tall, gaunt and usually disapproving. Her dresses were severe and tubular. She wore them with the air of a prison wardress. If Sam’s theatrical guests, in a general sense, be looked upon as Royalists, then Mrs. Dreed was without question the Roundhead in their midst.

~Death in White Pyjamas by John Bude

* * * * *

….The divisiveness of the new ideologies could turn brothers into faceless strangers and trade unionists or shop owners into class enemies. Normal human instincts were overridden. In the tense spring of 1936, on his way to Madrid University, Julián Marías, a disciple of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, never forgot the hatred in the expression of a tram-driver at a stop as he watched a beautiful and well-dressed young woman step down onto the pavement. ‘We’ve really had it,’ Marías said to himself. ‘When Marx has more effect than hormones, there is nothing to be done.’

~The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor

* * * * *

….His wife replied very emotionally, “No man has ever seen either of my daughters since they stopped going to school when they were little girls.”
….He struck his hands together and shouted at her, “Not so fast…. Slow down. Do you think I have any doubts about that, woman? If I did, not even murder would satisfy me. I’m just talking about what will go through the minds of some people who don’t know us. ‘No man has ever seen either of my daughters…’ God’s will be done. Would you have wanted a man to see them? What a crazy prattler you are. I’m repeating what might be rumoured by fools. Yes… he’s an officer in the area. He walks along our streets morning and evening. So it’s not out of the question that people, if they learned he was marrying one of the girls, would suspect that he might have seen one of them. I would despise giving my daughter to someone if that meant stirring up doubts about my honour. No daughter of mine will marry a man until I am satisfied that his primary motive for marrying her is a sincere desire to be related to me… me… me… me…”

~Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

* * * * *

….“Well, let me tell you, Jeeves, and you can paste this in your hat, shapeliness isn’t everything in this world. In fact, it sometimes seems to me that the more curved and lissome the members of the opposite sex, the more likely they are to set Hell’s foundations quivering. Do you recall telling me once about someone who told somebody he could tell him something which would make him think a bit? Knitted socks and porcupines entered into it, I remember.”
….“I think you may be referring to the ghost of the father of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, sir. Addressing his son, he said ‘I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine.’”
….“That’s right. Locks, of course, not socks. Odd that he should have said porpentine when he meant porcupine. Slip of the tongue, no doubt, as often happens with ghosts.”

~Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?